Dennis Wilke

Research Project:Situational illness experiences of children and adolescents with cancer. A Qualitative Analysis. (Link)

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Norbert W. Paul (Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz), Prof. Dr. Claudia Peter (formerly Goethe University Frankfurt)

BACKGROUND: After doing a voluntary social year in a kindergarten, I began to study sociology at the Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main. Soon I discovered my interest in qualitative research and in questions related to death and dying. A key event was my participation in a voluntary short film project entitled “30 young people talk to dying persons and their relatives” (University Witten-Herdecke; Interdisciplinary Centre for Palliative Care, Düsseldorf). In this context I first came into contact with palliative care, which immediately sparked my interest, resulting in my bachelor thesis on the interaction in hospices.

At the Goethe-University, I worked as a research assistant at the institute for sociology and at the institute for general practice (University Hospital Frankfurt), where I gained valuable insights in health services research. In the course of my master’s studies, I spent a semester at the University of Latvia, Riga. In my master’s thesis, I conducted an explorative phenomenological analysis of the illness experiences of children who suffer from leukaemia.

THE GRK… is an exceptional opportunity to broaden one’s scientific horizon and to deepen one’s understanding of phenomena that can be located on the intersection between (bio)medicine and social life, by fostering interdisciplinary exchange both within the PhD group and between us and “established” researchers. Furthermore, the GRK provides academic space to work on your dissertation project in a very focused and extensive way.

MY GOAL... as a member of the GRK is to contribute to our discussion of socially relevant issues by providing sociological and phenomenological perspectives, and to find possible answers and solution approaches that can potentially be transferred to those areas of society which are at the centre of our observations. As a result of my recent research interest, I especially hope to extend our understanding of the key concept of boundary experiences. Besides, I am looking forward to advancing my competences as a young researcher.

MY PROJECT… builds upon both results and unanswered questions of my master’s thesis: I am interested in exploring the relevance of the category of “existentiality” within the illness experience of children with life-threatening or -limiting diseases and their families. In this context – just as in other medical contexts –, terms like “boundary experience”, “existential experience” or “limit situation” are often being used, obviously referring to the potential fatality of the disease and the uncertainty that is connected to it. But they are seldom if ever conceptualized explicitly, so that the assumed “existentiality” remains a somewhat vague category. I plan on conducting extensive fieldwork in this area, including different qualitative research methods. Further issues of interest are the children’s body experiences and their process of learning about their illness.


Conference Papers:

Peter, Claudia & Wilke, Dennis: Potenzierte Isolation. Zur Verletzungserfahrung eines onkologisch erkrankten Jugendlichen infolge pandemiebedingter Herausforderungen in der klinischen Kommunikation. Präsentation auf dem gemeinsamen Soziologiekongress der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Soziologie und der Österreichischen Gesellschaft für Soziologie, 23.-25.08.2021, digital.

Childhood Studies and the Interrelation of Vulnerability and Agency. Reflections on the Relevance of Corporeality, Affectability and Responsivity following the Phenomenology of Bernhard Waldenfels; auf der Konferenz BTWS #3: Real, Imagined, and Displayed Fragility: Vulnerable Positions and Positioning in Society, 25.03.21, digital.